In this month’s “Notebook,” I am pleased to continue our interview with an unlikely hero, one Clifford L. Johansen (initials, CLJ, interestingly enough, still correspond to my own), whose idea — seemingly a jest at first — was the impetus for all that is to follow: a return to health and wellness for millions of men around the globe. His concept of mentally linking all men’s health issues with damage to their sex organs yielded results beyond his wildest imaginings. Here then is Part 2 of his extended interview with Legacy Magazine.
Legacy Magazine – You got some early push-back, didn’t you? People thought this was all about some infantile obsession with cocks.
Clifford L. Johansen – Right. Some said this was all just prurient or some excuse for scatological humor with no redeeming value.
LM – How did you deal with that?
CLJ – Remember the scene in Stand By Me when the boys went into the swamp thinking it was a shortcut and came out with leeches all over them? They all freaked out and peeled off their shirts and pulled the suckers off themselves and each other. But when Gordie looked down his underpants and saw a leech attached there…he stared, dumbstruck and horrified, gently removed the bloody offender — then passed out. That’s what I’m talking about. It was a perfect example of how we men regard our penises. “Omigod, anywhere but there.” That is not infantile.
LM – Say more.
CLJ – Look no further than the recent medical advances involving penis transplants for vets wounded in that area. In an article in USC Social Work, a Johns Hopkins doctor had this to say about it:
“These genitourinary injuries are not things we hear about or read about very often. I think one would agree it is as devastating as anything that our wounded warriors suffer, for a young man to come home in his early 20s with the pelvic area completely destroyed.”
So sure, missing limbs have become a well-known symbol of these wars, but genital damage is a hidden wound and, to many, a far worse one — cloaked in shame, stigma and embarrassment — than even a lost limb.
It’s estimated that approximately 12 percent of war injuries involve some kind of Genito-urinary trauma, known as GU, and, as that same doctor noted, “Its impact on sexual, reproductive, psychological, and relationship functioning remains under-studied.”
A New York Times article on transplants hit the nail on the head, and I quote, “Our young male patients would rather lose both legs and an arm than have a urogenital injury.”
Bingo! Just ask Sgt. First Class Aaron Causey, who lost both legs, one testicle and part of the other from an I.E.D. while in Afghanistan with the Army in 2011. He said the testicular damage was the most troubling of his injuries. The wound to his groin involved only the testicles. He said, “I don’t care who you are — military, civilian, anything — you have an injury like this, it’s more than just a physical injury.”
Some doctors have criticized the idea of penis transplants, saying they aren’t needed to save the patient’s life. But Dr. Richard J. Redett, the director of pediatric plastic and reconstructive surgery, also at Johns Hopkins, said, “If you meet these people, you see how important it is. To be missing the penis and parts of the scrotum is devastating. That part of the body is so strongly associated with your sense of self and identity as a male. These guys have given everything they have.”
LM – That kind of brings it home, you’re right. My God, I wince just thinking about it.
CLJ – I think most men do. It just seems inconceivable, doesn’t it?
LM – So, what happened next?
CLJ – It dawned on me that we could make a major impact on men’s health in America if we related every health problem somehow to their dicks. I thought about all this in jest before it really became a thing, you know? I was just kind of having fun with it. You tell a guy that he needs to get his weight down and he thinks, yeah yeah sure I’ll get to it. I’ll also eat whole grains and quinoa and drink more water and get my ass to the gym and juice celery stalks and use pink Himalayan salt and you name it… but he never does. Then you tell him, “hey, you know your dick’s going to fall off if you don’t?”and boom! He’s off to the doc on like a shot.
LM – So, once you had these examples of the primacy of men’s dicks in their own minds, what made you take the next leap of founding Men’s Dick Institute (MDI).
CLJ – I thought, what if there were billboards and Facebook campaigns with “authoritative” evidence all over the country? Man, your weight is way out of control. Did you know we’ve definitively proved that being overweight affects your hard-ons? That if you don’t fix your blood pressure, your dick will turn black and you’ll need surgery on it. I was just making up a bunch of bullshit about it and it seems quaint, but now that there’s real scientific evidence about it, it turns out to be incredibly effective. The underlying positive message is: if you take care of those things your dick’s health is assured.
LM – It has made a huge difference in the health of American men.
CLJ – I never thought it would be a real thing, with my not even being a scientist or anything. It was really just a joke at first. Surprisingly, though, there’s been a remarkable turnaround for American men. Way fewer heart attacks and risk factors that lead up to them, less stress reported, less purchasing of cholesterol-and-stress-reducing drugs, and way more regular checkups. We’ve gone from being one of the unhealthiest nations with respect to men’s health, to one of the healthiest in the world.
LM – So what started as a joke, by a non-scientist, led to a new era in men’s health in America.
CLJ – I’m just humbled to think I could be a part of it.
LM – Anything you’d like to add, as we wrap this up?
CLJ – Well, I think it’s important to emphasize that there’s more to men’s fascination with their cocks than mere infantilism. Moore and Gillette, in their groundbreaking book King Warrior Magician Lover, wrote, “The ancient Greeks had a god, Priapus, whose phallus was so large he had to carry it ahead of him in a wheelbarrow. The Egyptians honored the god Osiris in the form of the djed pillar. In their traditional fertility festivals, the Japanese still dance with huge artificial phalluses that are intended to evoke the procreative powers of nature. The erect penis is, of course, a sexual symbol. But it is also a symbol of the life-force itself.” Jungians, too, often reference the Greek god Eros to talk about the Lover energy. They also use the Latin term libido. By these terms they mean not just sexual appetites but a general appetite for life.
LM – That’s really good. Our penises represent life and vitality.
CLJ – Absolutely. David Deida wrote that if you are disconnected from your core (and by that he means your purpose), you feel weak, and that will undermine not only your “erection” in the world, but your erection with your woman, too. That’s from The Way of The Superior Man.
LM – If I take his meaning correctly, our path to greatness, and causing greatness, is our erection in the world. We should be proud of it.
CLJ – That’s it. The way to greatness, the way to health–It’s the Phallus, Fellas.